Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thinking like a drug addict

I invite you to closely examine the photos that accompany this post. They are all of the same person.*

Would you know this, if I hadn't told you?


Ironically, Mr Daisy and I had just been watching King of the Hill DVDs when we heard the news of Brittany Murphy's death. And as a King of the Hill fan, I felt that I had lost my dear friend Luanne, whom I loved like my own cartoon-land sister. And now I can't think of Luanne's sweet, scatterbrained, thoroughly clueless southern voice without tearing up. Ohhhh no, not Luanne!

Brittany Murphy was 32 years old.

With one or two exceptions (see below), there is a huge silence around her death. The implications are pretty far-reaching, so let me say it out loud: surgery is painful. Frequent surgery will make pain a frequent, even omnipresent reality.

In Hollywood, people (once it was only women, now it's everyone) have constant surgery to look good for movies and TV, and simply to stay employable. This state-of-affairs eventually evolves into endless medical tinkering and tweaking of the appearance. Surgery hurts, of course. Thus, the patients/victims are given ample painkillers, as Michael Jackson was. The result: you have a whole town full of rich, famous junkies, whom doctors will not refuse. (Out here in the heartland, you can have an exceptionally hard time getting your painkiller-Rx refilled, even when you are ready to drop dead; in Hollywood, the doctors are eager to do housecalls.) Need drugs? Have a handful!

Brittany Murphy's bedroom contained:

According to the notes, the medications included Topamax (anti-seizure meds also to prevent migraines), Methylprednisolone (anti-inflammatory), Fluoxetine (depression med), Klonopin (anxiety med), Carbamazepine (treats Diabetic symptoms and is also a bipolar med), Ativan (anxiety med), Vicoprofen (pain reliever), Propranolol (hypertension, used to prevent heart attacks), Biaxin (antibiotic), Hydrocodone (pain med) and miscellaneous vitamins.

The notes say, "No alcohol containers, paraphernalia or illegal drugs were discovered."
(Why the hell would you need illegal drugs when you can get all of that?!)

One of those phrases heard in recovery is: You are thinking like a drug addict. I found myself mulling over the death of young Brittany and by extension, the whole crew of drug-dependent Hollywood entertainers... and I wondered if they were also thinking like drug addicts.

That is to say, is the surgery first, or are the drugs first?

If you know you will get open-ended prescriptions, is that a possible enticement for more surgery? Perhaps that's one unacknowledged reason for the endless tweaking? Drugs, drugs and more drugs... but you have to plug into the system, you have to ride the gravy train. You have to get your face cut and pasted, probably some serious liposuction. It's like a baptism; a christening as a new Hollywood-being.

As a reward, perfectly legal chemicals that make you feel marvelous all the time. You can have as much as you want, but only if you continue the tweaking, the cutting, the pasting, the surgical tinkering.

And of course you will. By then, you are thinking like a drug addict.


Director Amy Heckerling has already weighed in:
Did Brittany Murphy's death have anything to do with her weight?

"Clueless" director Amy Heckerling seems to think so.

Heckerling, who worked with a much curvier Murphy during the filming of "Clueless," told that she is "angry" about the actress' death, and believes Hollywood played a large role in transforming her from a round-faced teen to a rail-thin adult.

"It just seemed like she was blowing up, being on every magazine and being treated as though she had suddenly become beautiful.," Heckerling told the mag. "And I think she was feeling very good about that. I'm just not happy with Hollywood."

Just a couple weeks before she collapsed in her shower and was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest, Murphy even admitted that she was too skinny while speaking with reporters at a store opening.

"I am a bit thinner now than what I would like to be," she told Fox News.
Murphy's official cause of death is still listed as "pending." But I see the photos, and I know that such a radical rearranging of one's appearance could not happen without considerable pain. And painkillers.

Brittany, we hardly knew ye, dear one.

Goodbye, my dearest Luanne.

*Photos above are Brittany Murphy in the films Clueless, Girl Interrupted, 8 Mile, and the not-yet-released Abandoned.


Drakyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is A.W., Drakyn was using my comp last.

Reposting -

I recently read another post about the same woman, here.


As for your Q, would I know her in any of the other photos - yes and no. Her facial structure is identical in the photos, barring a bit of fat redistribution and makeup work. As long as I'm looking at a still photo instead of a moving human being, I can match structure like no one's business. Hairstyles don't exactly throw me off, provided the face is memoriable, and hers was.

Ann ODyne said...

It is quite clear from the 3 distinct looks that she was a good actress.

Cause Of Death: Hollywood.
The sleaze BF was no help either.
Great post Daisy.

mikeb302000 said...

That is a sad story. I don't think the follow-up scripts would be a motive to have surgery, though. There's so much pressure already to look good, that's all it takes. And then the ones who have that tendency get lost.

DaisyDeadhead said...

AW, I'm banned at FWD and therefore cannot reply to the post. It doesn't surprise me, though. They don't see any connections between ageism and ableism, so of course, I am not surprised that they could write two whole posts about Murphy without even mentioning the intense Hollywood pressures on women to look good through plastic surgery and eating disorders. Sometimes I wonder what planet FWD is on-- some theoretical one I think.
(Although I HAVE noticed they never miss a chance to defend drug use!)

I am of the generation that worries about mind-control of women through drugs, and, um, they're not.

I actually find both of those FWD posts pretty embarrassing. And Ouyang Dan's "it's none of our business, really" kinda blew my mind.

If the oppression of women "isn't your business"--you really don't have the right to call yourself a feminist and should leave the label to those of us who do take it seriously.

Rachel said...

I got teary-eyed because the penguin from Happy Feet had died...

Zan said...

Here's the thing -- all those drugs? You could find a whole hell of a lot of them in my medicine cabinet. I'm not a drug addict, nor have I had multiple surgeries. I have a handful of chronic illnesses that require medication in order for me to function. If you looked in my bathroom right now you'd find:


A list of drugs can't really tell you anything, except that someone was taking medication. You can't even be certain all those medications were hers, since the article doesn't say they were. Just they were found in the bedroom. Which she shared, with her husband.

Frankly, I look at that list of meds and I see someone who was likely very sick but keeping it private. Pain meds, migraines, seizures AND heart medication? The woman could very easily have had the same thing I do, Lupus.

I don't discount the fact that she likely had plastic surgery and that she was under a lot of pressure to be as thin as possible. I am, however, uncomfortable with the notion that because she had a lot of medications, that that HAD to be what killed her. Nor am I buying the idea that because she was on medication she was being controlled and oppressed. Is that possible? Sure. But we don't know that for a fact. We don't know that she didn't have some underlying medical condition that was being treated by those medications.

JoJo said...

I didn't even think of that possibility, Daisy, till you raised it. It's a very sad and tragic story. I wasn't that familiar w/ her work, but of course have seen King of the Hill.

It sucks the way 'the industry' forces mostly women to lose weight and keep tweaking your body till it meets some ideal of the perfect body. That said, it may not have been a conscious thought on her part, 'more surgery means more pills', so much as 'more surgery means more roles'.

Over medication isn't just reserved for the stars though. When my grandmother moved up to the Cape to live w/ my parents in 1987, she didn't know who we were. After she went to bed, we got all of her pill bottles and a prescription medication book and it turns out that she was taking multiple doses of the SAME meds for her heart AND diabetes. Some of the pills had a generic name, others the name brand. Her doctor & pharmacist never bothered to check her chart and medication history. And Nana didn't understand that she had prescriptions for the same medication, it's just they had different names. Once her meds were sorted out, her brain completed cleared up.

Weer'd Beard said...

Occam's razor does point to recreational drug use and death by misadventure.

That being said Zan has a good point.

Did you know about half of those drugs are anti-seizure medicines? Could be Ms. Murphy might have been a medically controlled epileptic?

But again the simplest solution was she was getting high on the stuff.

sheila said...

Yes, so so sad. She had such a promising and long career. Had her mitts in everything! Voice overs, movies, tv, damn.

I loved Luanne too.

berryblade said...

I just couldn't help but notice over the years the "spark" that was in her eyes in her earlier work wasn't there. Her eyes LOOK sad. Which makes it more tragic, because there's no reason why anyone should be miserable.

King of the Hill FTW

Poor Brittany Murphy.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Zan, which condition? The hubby said she had a common cold, but no other medical issues.

Drug abuse is getting respectable again, I've noticed. I find it very alarming, as an (ex) addict. And I will speak my truth, as you have to speak yours. My mother and grandmother were prescription drug addicts, and I easily obtained Rxs to get high when I was in the thick of it... in fact, it was far easier to get drugs when I was an addict than it is now that I really do need them, so go figure. Probably because I could become hysterical in a heartbeat, as, um, an ACTRESS probably could too.

I stand by my post until the death certificate says otherwise.

Blue Heron said...

Very interesting. I am not sure that I concur that drug abuse is getting respectable again but that's not important.

I have seen many friends go through "the program" and ween themselves from pot and liquor or worse only to jump at the chance of getting a "legal" drug prescribed. If it has a prescription they can justify using.

My mother was also a pill addict - darvon, phenobarb, valium, etc. I do not have an addictive personality but managed to develop a dialudid addiction twice while battling cancer twenty five years ago and know of what I speak. Very difficult thing to kick and I know that my body was manifesting pain in order to give me a reason to get more dilaudid. Nefarious.

Not being a tv guy I can't comment on this women but she does seem to have that worn look and the gaunt pallor I saw when the little girls in Berkeley discovered persian in the mid seventies. Tragic.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Blue Heron: I know that my body was manifesting pain in order to give me a reason to get more dilaudid. Nefarious.

This is what a lot of people don't understand about addiction, and you summed it up perfectly in one sentence.

If its sleep you crave, you will develop insomnia if you don't use the drug. If its increased-pain that brings more of the drug into your body? Then pain will increase. And if its general life-chaos, it will somehow always find you. The circumstances will always be there, as if by magic: But I have to.

Whatever justification you need, whichever excuse you started with, it will quickly take over. The addiction takes on a life of its own and fights for its own survival as a separate entity or being. You know, like the proverbial monkey on one's back?

Thanks for getting it.

Meowser said...

I just wish people would wait for a toxicology report and/or an autopsy before labeling Murphy the next Elvis. Just because you have drugs in your medicine chest doesn't mean you take all of them simultaneously. I'm sure I have meds I don't use any more because I reacted badly to them, or found something that worked better for me, or just didn't need them any more.

Besides, only four of those drugs are controlled substances at all; two of them, in fact (Vicoprofen and hydrocodone) would show up as a single drug on a toxicology test even if consumed simultaneously. (And yeah, plastic surgery would be one pretty good reason to have that stuff around, no question.)

And is there really any evidence at all that people get high off beta blockers? Or antibiotics? Or even Prozac (fluoxetine)? (It seems like a strange way to try to get high, by using a drug that typically takes at least a month to kick in.)

I have Klonopin and use it maybe once or twice a month, at a dosage so small the pharmacist thought the directions were a typo ("no, one-sixteenth of a pill really IS the dose"). I have no desire to use it any more often than that because it makes me stuporous, and if the Alpha-Stim turns out to manage my meltdowns better (I'll find out this month), I'd be happy to DC it entirely. In fact, I'd be thrilled never to have to swallow another goddamn pill as long as I live. Unfortunately, I've thus far been a nightmare to live with unmedicated, and I assure you, I did try try try. Maybe someday I'll try try try try again.

Maybe some people actually get high off some of the drugs Murphy had on her, but it seems to me that regular usage of said drugs would make it less likely to produce a euphoric effect, not more. Doctors should be able to tell the difference between people who are being careful and conscious with meds and people who aren't. That's part of their job. Although, of course, almost no doctor says no to a celebrity, not even one who's starving herself to well under baseline weight and thus making herself more susceptible to OD on anything at all, Tylenol included.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Meowser: I just wish people would wait for a toxicology report and/or an autopsy before labeling Murphy the next Elvis.


Do you wait for the 'experts' to deliver their expert-opinions before you decide someone has autism-spectrum tendencies? Because if you did, you couldn't label a single person from the past (Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, et. al.) as having Asperger's, since the condition had not even been give a name at that time (or the name was not in popular usage). Obviously, the autistic people who have labeled Warhol have their reasons for doing so, including a certain indefinable gut feeling.

Well, me too. (I wrote about that "gut feeling" a little bit here too; page down to comments about "Warsaw".)

In short, I don't need to wait for no stinking toxicology report. I sponsored people for over 20 years. My experience counts as much as yours or anyone else's does.

And is there really any evidence at all that people get high off beta blockers? Or antibiotics? Or even Prozac (fluoxetine)? (It seems like a strange way to try to get high, by using a drug that typically takes at least a month to kick in.)

Non-addicts ask such funny questions.

You can get high off ANY combination of drugs (a couple of those w/OTC Benadryl, forgodsake, could make you very high) particularly if you take it all at once. Several of those, taken together in formidable doses, will put you in the stratosphere quite easily. Especially if you weigh 95 lbs soaking wet.

BTW, antibiotics make me very light-headed and have since I was a kid--a major reason I try to avoid them.

Maybe some people actually get high off some of the drugs Murphy had on her, but it seems to me that regular usage of said drugs would make it less likely to produce a euphoric effect, not more.

Well, duh. Of course tolerance develops. So, you just take more to get the same effect. That's how people eventually OD and die.

The protestations I am hearing on this thread are pissing me off.
Obviously, some of you think drug addiction makes one a bad person and are coming to Murphy's defense as if I have "accused" her of something morally wrong. On the contrary, I said I loved her. And I know what I see, from years of experience. It is this attitude (that drug addicts are bad people), that keeps people from seeking treatment: "Oh, I'm not a bad person, so I can't be an addict!" This negative, prejudiced attitude was all over the two disturbingly-clueless posts at FWD, and it seems to be what Meowser and Zan are saying.

In case you didn't know, addiction IS an illness... so when you say "she wasn't an addict, she was REALLY SICK"... do you realize that IS what I am saying? Addiction MAKES you sick.

For some bizarre reason, I guess I thought people were far more knowledgeable about addiction compared to back in the day, when *I* was in trouble.

If this thread (and FWD's) is any indication: Not hardly.

Meowser said...

Do you wait for the 'experts' to deliver their expert-opinions before you decide someone has autism-spectrum tendencies? Because if you did, you couldn't label a single person from the past (Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, et. al.) as having Asperger's, since the condition had not even been give a name at that time (or the name was not in popular usage). Obviously, the autistic people who have labeled Warhol have their reasons for doing so, including a certain indefinable gut feeling.

Just speaking for myself, I tend not to label anyone I don't/didn't know personally as having had an ASD if they have never said so publicly. I might think (privately), "Hmmm, so-and-so might be/have been one of us," but without really knowing them, I can't know for sure. Even with people I've known, I'd have to have both known them really well AND known they had no access to diagnosis to make that determination without their consent; the only person who has ever fit that bill for me is my grandfather.

Besides, a toxicology screen is a much better indicator of what was actually in Murphy's body at the time of death than what was in her medicine chest -- which, like I said, could very easily contain drugs that have been discontinued or were used infrequently. And believe me, I've known my share of addicts and alcoholics too, even lived with them, and am well aware they can get high off the litterbox if they "have" to. But that's the thing. Either they copped to that fact, or I observed it myself with my own eyes, right down to watching them put it in their mouths (or elsewhere), or at least seeing them close up acting obviously baked.

As a fatass, I am extremely sensitive to "person has/had characteristic X must equal person has/had habit Y" talk. I don't think addict=bad person, any more than I think binge eating disorder=bad person. But I'm thinking about, what would happen if *I* died of a heart attack tomorrow and someone went through my medicine chest and determined I must have been a DOPE FIEND!!11!! Or that I must have eaten myself to death, or whatev. It would allow for people to have an oversimplified view of my life without really thinking about what it must have been like to be me, and also for people to engage in smug self-congratulation that they "take care of themselves" whereas I didn't bother because all I cared about was "feeding my addictions." I'm not saying *you* did that here, but the Salon piece that Annaham wrote about on FWD, and some of the other speculation about Murphy, has certainly reeked of it, and I'd just as soon not egg them on.

Zan said...


Daisy, I never said I thought addicts were bad people. For the record, I Do Not think that they are. What I said, and what Meowser seems to be saying, is that we do not know that Murphy WAS an addict. She may well have been. I'm not saying she wasn't, but I don't think there's enough evidence to say that she was.

And yeah, I'm thinking the same as Meowser. If I kicked it today and someone came looking through my medicine cabinet and went AHAH! Look at all those drugs! Clearly, she was an addict and it was the drugs that killed her!

So, maybe she was addict. And maybe that's what killed her. But maybe she had Lupus. Or MS. Or severe epilipsy. Or maybe she wasn't an addict, but had an allergic reaction to a new medication that looked like a cold but was in fact killing her. Or maybe she had the flu, but thought it was a cold, and so didn't go to the doctor and it killed her. Or maybe she had a heart condition that she didn't talk about because, as an actress, her job depends upon public opinion and people still look at disability as a horrible fate that makes you well...subhuman.

What I'm saying, and ALL that I'm saying is we really don't know what killed her and we probably never will. You see signs of addiction and I respect that. You may very well be correct. I look at the same picture and I see signs of possible chronic illness. I may very well be right. Or, hey, maybe we're BOTH right. Or maybe we're both wrong and she died of something completely unrelated -- maybe she slipped in the shower and hit her head and the drugs have nothing to do with her death. Maybe she had an blood clot or an aneuryism. Maybe what she thought was a cold was actually pnemunia. I know plenty of people who have died that way, because they didn't even feel that sick.

I'm just. . .if she was an addict, that's very sad. And yes, Hollywood sure as hell makes it easy for people to get drugs. That's not in dispute.

DaisyDeadhead said...

I assume you all heard about the Saturday Night Live skit that was yanked from the internet after Brittany's death? Why did they yank it? "Disrespectful" was the official reason... it was about Brittany being all messed up on drugs, with one of the SNL comediennes portraying her as such. Immediately after her death, NBC, Hulu, YouTube, etc. pulled the skit off their sites.

That kind of skit does not materialize out of nowhere, know what I mean?

Ditto, Perez Hilton's prediction she would be the next celebrity after Michael Jackson to die a drug-related death. Personally, I saw her on the Independent Spirit Awards some time ago (where she presented an award), and there is no mistaking she was quite seriously looped.

That IS evidence.

Looking in a medicine cabinet and saying AHA!--coupled with a history of showing up everywhere high for the last few years is what I refer to.

Anyway, thank you for your clarifications.

passinthru said...

Well, similar to Limbaugh clearly having been hospitalized for chest pains due to drug use. People who live among ducks can hear quacks.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Limbaugh is far, far gone. Did you see that press conference? He was cranked up. What is this magic diet wherein he lost 90 lbs in six months?!?!? Hey, I was on that diet once, too. ;)

When he dies, can't wait for the books by the maids, the ex (Marta is currently under gag order, wonder if that extends past his death?), the doctors and the drug-dealers. It will be some WILD shit.

Glenn Beck is next! I predicted a spectacular flame-out here (page down to Deadhead-flag photo), and I am sticking to my prediction. As I wrote, I don't know if the catalyst will be booze, drugs, women or greed, but it will be one of those. (That bizarre billionaire he's been courting on his show? Makes me think it will be money, not drugs. And I hate that, since he can always plead "bad investments" and general financial ignorance, rather than outright corruption, which will be the truth.)

The thing that is especially infuriating about Beck and Limbaugh is, they do not see themselves as being fundamentally the same as the homeless, poor addicts they proudly look down on from their exalted perches.

And that's why they can't recover.

Meowser said...

I seem to recall SNL in the late 1970s doing a sketch on Liz Taylor, wherein John Belushi portrayed Taylor (then a constant butt of jokes for her weight) as stuffing her face and choking on a chicken leg. Some people speculated that Belushi was parodying himself in that sketch as much as he was Taylor, if not more so. Just sayin'.

Also, I can just imagine what would happen if the tox screen on Murphy showed up with cocaine in it, and none of the drugs in her medicine chest. (Just because they didn't find coke in her house doesn't mean she didn't use it elsewhere.) It makes me think of when Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers died of what looked like a sudden heart attack, which later turned out after tox screen to be a cocaine OD. Bill Medley professed shock at the time that this was the cause of death, because he'd never known Hatfield to use coke. Maybe he had never used it before, or hadn't tried it in decades, and using it just once combined with a subclinical heart condition was too much for him. Maybe he had been a user and managed to keep it from Medley all those years. Maybe Medley wasn't saying what he knew to protect his partner's reputation and/or his own. Unless and until someone steps forward with more information, we won't know for sure. But there definitely are people who use a drug just once and have a fatal reaction to it.

Also, with all those different kinds of pills, I wouldn't rule out a deliberate CDI/OD either, even with no suicide note. (And yeah, you CAN be that depressed and not tell anyone, believe me.) That's why I say, wait for the tox screen. Wait for the autopsy. Stuff can show up that you didn't expect.

John B said...

I came over from Single Female Lawyer's site. I'm glad I did. I was just going to lurk long enough to have my preconceptions confirmed. Instead I found you to be an insightful commentator on the human condition. We will never agree on the issue SFL addressed, but I think we can agree on the addiction issue.

And let me say that Limbaugh and Beck do not speak for me. Indeed I think they're an embarrassment at best, a discreditation at worst.

I have back issues, and chronic pain, If I could keep a bottle of hydros around for the pain, I'd be okay. It seems however that the bottle, if left anywhere grabbable, gets taken. The last one walked off with a state welfare worker. I didn't want to accuse her, but when the cops found my pill bottle on her, and she tried to weasel out by saying she caught me abusing them....

Despite her having taken half the pills, according to her u.a., there were still more in there than there would have been if I were taking them on schedule.

I were taking them 'as needed for pain'. AND I know about 'manufactured pain'. I fear addiction. Not only is it an enslavement to delusions. It allows other people, with agendas, to step in, and make decisions about your money, freedom, and life.

You're right! Limbaugh and Beck use, then look down on people who are exactly like them, the homeless, the helpless, the vulnerable, we are all in this together.

DaisyDeadhead said...

John, welcome! And I loved your comment.

steve said...

I would have not recognized that person in the photos are of same you would have not tell me. drug addiction intervention in your think is very harm for your life as well as your health.

Anonymous said...


I'm a long-time lurker on your blog. Thanks for talking about addiction the way you do.

I really apreciated this post and finally decided to comment on it.

I think a lot of the controversy surrounding Brittany Murphy's death reflects the idea that addicts are weak, broken people who bring their troubles on themselves. For people who think like this, being an addict is an insult and a sign of failure.

While I haven't suffered from addiction to medication, I struggle with disordered eating (I never feel un-fat regardless of my weight and have trouble eating if depressed).

That society tends to label addicts and women with eating problems as irrecoverably broken and pitiful instead of acknowledging both as illness that require continuous struggle but don't make you a weak or pathetic person really makes it hard to get help of any kind.

If admitting your problems is admitting that you are broken, then there is no point in trying to change them because all you will do is lose face by identifying yourself as an addict etc. This sort of thinking kills people and it could easily have contributed to Murphy's death. I know I struggle with it constantly.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Brittany Murphy's death ruled accidental by L.A. County coroner's office

The L.A. County coroner's office says actress Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia complicated by an iron deficiency, anemia and multiple drug intoxication.

Coroner officials said Murphy had gone into sudden cardiac arrest because of "drug intake," and the Dec. 20 death was classified as an accident. They said an autopsy report would be available in two weeks.

Murphy, 32, went into cardiac arrest at her home in the Hollywood Hills. L.A. firefighters responded to a medical call at about 8 a.m. at the home she shared with husband Simon Monjack in the 1800 block of Rising Glen Road.

Firefighters tried unsuccessfully to revive Murphy on the way to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead about two hours later.

Born Nov. 10, 1977, in Atlanta, Murphy moved to Burbank with her mother when she was 13. Her film break came in the movie "Clueless" (1995), in which she starred opposite Alicia Silverstone.